Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Online fashion boutique brings African design to the world

From Cynthia Wamwayi, CNN
  • UK-based Agnes & Lola sells African fashion online
  • Beyond making money, the company wants to promote ethical fashion
  • Founder Lola Remi says Agnes & Lola is aiming to give a percentage of its profits to charity

CNN's Marketplace Africa offers viewers a unique window into African business on and off the continent. This week the show presents Agnes & Lola, a UK-based online fashion store featuring designers from all around Africa.

Watch the show on Fridays 1945, Saturdays 0145, 0615, Sundays 0715 (all times GMT).

London, England (CNN) -- With a wide selection of eye-catching prints and colorful garments, online boutique Agnes & Lola has set its sights on becoming the website of choice for African fashion.

Launched by Lola Remi in August, the UK-based fashion store aims to make African clothes more accessible to the rest of the world, as well as promoting ethical fashion.

Like many major fashion brands, the clothing store traces its origins to one of world's most iconic fashion capitals -- Paris.

"In Paris I noticed many African young people wore African print and they didn't just wear it in a traditional sense," Remi told CNN.

London fashion helping Africa

"They wore it with jeans and they wore it just as dresses, I was really impressed by this and kept thinking about it.

"And then once I came over here [London], a friend of mine, Xaverie [Bakheme], who is also one of the designers, actually went to Cameroon and had one of the dresses as well. And that's when I was captivated by the print and that's how I really got into African fashion," she added.

Agnes & Lola (named after Remi and her grandmother, Agnes) carries the work of young designers from all around Africa, all of whom have one thing in common -- their strong ties to the continent.

For Nigerian designer Nkwo Onwuka, inspiration for her clothes comes not just from her country but from the entire continent. "There are so many different cultures and colors and so many inspiring things," she told CNN.

"When you walk through the markets, there are beads, there are all sorts of fabrics, so I find my inspiration from the whole of Africa."

Another designer is Christine Mhando, who was born in Tanzania but raised in Britain. In 2007, she launched the Chichia London brand, known for its use of the "khanga," a traditional cotton printed garment worn by women in East Africa as a wrap.

"I use the fabrics from over there [Tanzania] and basically create it in a more modern style, a more European style, which is kind of basically what I would wear myself, because I am African but I am also British," Mhando told CNN.

For Remi, an important part of her business is giving back to the continent that inspired her. She says Agnes & Lola is aiming to give a percentage of its profits to charity.

It's not just about building ourselves but about promoting Africa in a positive way.
--Lola Remi, founder of Agnes & Lola

"The first one that we've chosen is Medicins Sans Frontier, which is also Doctors without Borders. And we've chosen a particular aspect of it which is Condition Critical and that's where they focus very much on the conflict in the Congo region."

Remi says her mission is to promote not only talented, but also ethical designers who are committed to embroidering their fashion with social consciousness.

Some of the designers featured by Agnes & Lola use recycled materials, others use local artisans to help design their garments.

Remi said: "They [the designers] are the future of African fashion, and I very much hope that Agnes & Lola is also the future of African fashion, bringing it out to that audience and making it more marketable and out there.

"And also representing ourselves in a very positive and ethical fashion, building the continent as well. It's not just about building ourselves but about promoting Africa in a positive way."

Teo Kermeliotis contributed to this report